“If you would just change I would be happy”

Couples may not say it exactly in these words, but this is often the meaning or what it sounds like. At least the idea or concept in their heads is “if you would just stop (fill in the blank), I wouldn’t be so angry” or, “if you would (fill in the blank), we would get along better.”

Think about it.

When you point the finger at your partner and say if you would change I would be happy, you’re basically saying that your partner is the problem. And if you go just a little deeper you are saying they are also the solution! (They need to change because they are the problem, and by them changing they are the “solution” to my happiness). So pretty much what you are saying is that you are helpless or unable to influence your own emotions of happiness.

And that’s not the truth. You do have the ability to impact your own relationships for good! We know our partner can’t really “make” us happy, but we all certainly have substantial sway in our partner’s feelings and quality of life.

Fear, force, control or anger is terrible motivation for change. DiClemente (2003) in research on change had some great insights into what makes people change:

People Change Voluntarily Only When They:

  • Are interested in or concerned about the NEED for change
  • Become convinced the change is in their best interests and will benefit them more than the cost
  • Make a plan of action they are committed to implementing; and
  • Take the actions necessary to make and sustain the change

People Don’t Change When They:

  • Are not convinced of the problem or the need for change-Unmotivated
  • Are not committed to making a change-Unwilling
  • Have an actual or perceived ability about making that change-Unable

So in terms of a couple’s relationship, how DO you get more of what you want and need?

First we have to ask! See Assertive Relationships And we have to ask in a way that includes the importance and meaning to us personally. You are inviting your partner to help meet a need, not demanding they “change.” Peak their interest in what it could mean for you, them, and the overall relationship in terms of the benefits to the mutual happiness of you both. Get buy-in. Get to “YES.”

Then make a plan together, helping each other accomplish the actions necessary for your mutual success, and yes, your mutual happiness.